Senator Grace Poe recommended that the government should conduct a pilot test of the planned jeepney modernization in the light of sketchy details and purported lack of consultations with transport groups.
“Gusto ko sana magkaroon na muna ng mga pilot projects. Hindi pwedeng sabay-sabay lahat ng areas. Kung compliance sa safety, road worthiness at saka emissions, pwede munang yun ang unahin tapos yung iba naman, like side door accessibility, persons with disabilities,” Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, told reporters on the sidelines of the hearing on the jeepney modernization program.
Transport groups present during the hearing were one in backing the proposed modernization, but they lamented that there seemed to be lack of consultations, particularly on the issuance of Department Order No. 2017-011 or the omnibus franchise guidelines issued last June. The said policy contained a set of standards for franchise issuance such as door location on the curbside door and not the rear door for boarding and alighting, access for persons with disability, and jeepneys must be below seven meters in length. Jeepneys must also be able to pass the emission standards.
“Yung mga pwede pang tumakbo dahil maayos pa naman, i-allow. For sure marami ng kailangang palitan, yun ang dapat na maging – iyong prototype na nila. Linawin rin sana sino ang suppliers kasi bagama’t yung mga engine Euro4, pero kung ang magtatagpi-tagpi ng sasakyan rin, mga chop-chop naman, baka delikado. Pangalawa, kung kukuha naman tayo ng mga accredited na kumpanya, siguraduhin nating walang kumpare system dito na ang ma-aaccredit nila ay mga kumpanyang talagang merong kredibilidad at kakayahang gawin yun,” the legislator added.
“But will jeepney drivers and operators afford millions in loans for new jeepneys as part of the government’s modernization program for public utility vehicles?”
The lawmaker raised this question as the planned jeepney modernization plan is set to initially roll out next year, with the government subsidizing P80,000 of the P1.5 to P1.8 million estimated cost of a new jeepney.
“Kaya ba ng bulsa – hindi lang ng mga drayber/operator kung ‘di pati na rin ng mga mananakay? Kaya ba ng ating mga jeepney drayber at operator na bayaran sa loob ng itinakdang panahon ang utang para sa bagong mga jeep? May kasiguraduhan ba na papautangin sila ng bangko?” the lady senator said as she quizzed Transportation officials during the public hearing on the proposed jeepney modernization plan.
She appealed to Transport officials to reconsider the “high unit cost and burdensome financing terms” to be extended to jeepney driver-operators.
“Come to think of it, if government is subsidizing trains run by rich companies to the tune of billions, then why should it allow jeepney drivers and operators to foot the bill for new units almost all by themselves?” said Poe.
She also said if the government can provide a flurry of incentives to the private sector under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme, then all the more it is well within its means to provide more funding support to jeepney driver-operators.
“If PPP grantees are given incentives, in amounts with dizzying number of zeros, and are hailed as patriots, then why are jeepney drivers who are asking for a little more help treated as pests?” Poe said.